Foundation of the San Diego Floral Association in 1907 helped the Chamber of Commerce prepare for beautification of San Diego for the 1915 Exposition, which drew over two million visitors. The Association's first project in this regard was to put on a civic flower show to introduce the citizens of San Diego to the large variety of plants that could be grown here. Free plants and cuttings were distributed and 5,000 brochures were given away as encouragement to homeowners to beautify their own gardens. The organization continued to give free seeds, cuttings, and plants to citizens every weekend at the Chamber of Commerce.
Since most residents had come from places where soil, water, and growing conditions were different, it soon became clear that written instructions were needed. Thus, the first issue of California Garden magazine was printed in July of 1909.
The magazine specialized in information for growing plants in the San Diego area. It is the oldest horticulture magazine in continuous publication in the United States. Most writers, editors, and photographers have been volunteers, many of whom are well-known authorities in their fields.
Even though the organization was founded for beautification of San Diego, many people wanted to grow vegetables and fruits, so California Garden expanded to give advice on growing edible items. Today subscribers include readers in foreign countries with similar climatic conditions, as well as in colder areas of the United States, where the information is used for growing plants in greenhouses.
San Diego Floral Association was probably the most influential group involved in determining the future ambiance of San Diego. In 1907, most of San Diego resembled the sagebrush-covered areas now seen along Florida canyon. Homes were surrounded with bare dirt and a few struggling plants.
During preparation for the 1915 Exposition, ladies of the Floral Association served on a city-sponsored project to plant the parkways throughout the city. Every area had its designated advisor who not only gave plants to interested homeowners but also encouraged them to plant adjacent vacant lots.
Kate Sessions and Mrs. A. D. Robinson were among the advisors, together with the wives of most of the city's "movers and shakers." Floral Association members also donated specimen plants, especially trees, from their gardens to help plant Balboa Park. Over 3,000 ferns were grown in members' homes for planting along the Prado for the opening of the Exposition in 1915. The Floral Association even lobbied the city government to ensure that trash pickup was free and unlimited in amount; an ordinance to that effect remains in effect today.
Large civic garden shows were presented by the organization twice a year until the war years, when the park buildings and facilities were used to expand the military hospital. The Association was also responsible for starting projects to preserve groves of native live oaks and Torrey pines.
In 1923, the Association was given the use of the Kansas Building in Balboa Park. Since 1923, with the exception of the war years, the Association has maintained a telephone service and a horticulture library in Balboa Park open at least five days a week. In 1972, the Floral Association relocated to Casa del Prado.
Since the end of World War II, specialty clubs and plant organizations have presented many small garden shows. At the present time, one affiliated club of the Association gives a flower show in Casa del Prado almost every weekend, and since 1972, San Diego Floral has given a flower show in Casa del Prado in December. In 1978, the December shows became affiliated with the park-wide holiday program first known as "Christmas on the Prado," more recently as "December Nights". Affiliated garden clubs and plant societies participate in the Association's displays in Casa del Prado.
Mission: To promote the knowledge and appreciation of horticulture and floriculture in the San Diego region.